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Siege mentality

Friday, 19 Nov 2021

In the garden on Dr John Dunn. Siege mentality

'These two Emparadised in one another's arms / The happier Eden, shall enjoy their fill / Of bliss on bliss.' Paradise Lost (1667) bk. 4, 1.505*

The outsider is the violator, both evil tempter and impartial punisher of the wicked. Violation left me at first elated and then bereft. There followed the torment of unrequited love; and it is the humanising aspects of grief and despair, and all the collateral tragedy that recall the classical heroes of old echoed in Miltonic epic.

The Outsider’s mission to arouse and inflame man is a siege motif, where Eden becomes a Troy in need of invasion. Like Odysseus, adept at ignoble disguise, bearing gifts through a composite Trojan horse of serpent and woman, the Outsider ultimately succeeds in his goal to penetrate and vanquish the fortress. With the Fall comes awakening yes, but also loss,and it is the loss that is humanising - a life unto death.

In Book IX of John Milton’s Paradise Lost Adam and Eve prepared for their daily work tending the Garden; and because the Garden's growth seemed to surpass their labours, Eve suggested that they work apart. She had to get away from Adam.

Was not Milton’s Eve aware of vain labours in a garden ever more luxuriant and forever on the verge of wilderness? The argument with Eve in Book IX of Paradise Lost exposed Adam to the truth of what Eve had known all along. Their strained contentment in the Garden was no way to live - docile, passive and slaves to nature. In Book XII, Adam proclaims that the good resulting from the Fall that Eve induced is ‘more wonderful’ than the goodness in the Creation itself. He exclaims:

Oh goodness infinite, goodness immense!



That all this good of evil shall produce,


And evil turn to good; more wonderful


Than that which by creation first brought forth


Light out of darkness!

Love emparadised is something that imprisons, something stifling and claustrophobic, something complex and sometimes horrific. It needs a second awakening. Loss and unrequited love are where open airy uplands lie… across the lonely wuthering heights of heath and cliff.


* Paradise Lost - Adam Awakening Eve. Engraver - R. Earlom, Designer R. Westall, 1794

© John Dunn.







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